As if the Federal Reserve doesn't have enough to worry about, now it has to contend with the very likely notion that its expectations for growth are considerably too optimistic.
Once again, reality has set up an uncomfortable roadblock in front of expectations, the consequences being that consensus hopes for comparatively robust economic growth in the U.S. and abroad simply outpaced what's happening on the ground.
If nothing else, there's simple math: The Fed's most recent projections, issued in March, show gross domestic product growing at a 2.8 percent to 3 percent clip. But after a -1 percent growth rate in the first quarter, the rest of the year would have to rebound sharply—something north of 4 percent—to reach that target.
Then there are other factors.
Most prominently, even as many economic indicators rise, the housing recovery appears on shaky ground. Recent indicators also show a sharp rise in the U.S. trade deficit. Finally, global growth, particularly in emerging markets, continues to struggle despite expectations that 2014 would be the year that things started to return to normal after five years of mediocre post-financial crisis growth.
Taken together, the picture forced the World Bank to cut its growth estimates, taking down global GDP from an estimated 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent and slashing its U.S. projections from 2.8 percent to 2.1 percent. The news appeared to rattle financial markets at least a bit, with stocks posting modest losses in Wednesday's trading session.